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A tihai is a composition in which a phrase is repeated 3 times with 2 equal pauses to arrive on a designated position, usually but not necessarily the sum.

phrase + pause + phrase + pause +phrase

4 maatra tihai sample (8 beats per maatra):

dhaSTRKTTK     dhaSSSdhaSTR     KTTKdhaSSS     dhaSTRKTTK     |     dha


In this sample, the phrase is 1 maatra while the pause is 1/2 maatra. Because the phrase is played thrice and pause occurs twice, 1 times 3 + 1/2 times 2 = 4 maatras total. Tihais end with a powerful emphasis on the bol "dha". After each phrase, a dha is played to start measuring the interval of the pause. For this reason, the dha is separate from the phrase, and is instead counted as part of the pause itself. The last dha marks the conclusion of the tihai. Usually (but not necessarily), this dha will land on the sum. A tihai of which the last dha lands before the sum is called anagat.

Bedum Tihai- A tihai with be-dum, meaning no-pause, is a bedum tihai. A bedum tihai has a pause of 1/2 maatra or less. A bedum tihai can't be composed in a taal of which the number of maatras is a multiple of 3 (ex. ektaal, matta taal). 

Dumdaar Tihai-  Dumdaar, meaning "with a pause," implies that a dumdaar tihai has a pause. The pauses may be short or long, and they may also be simple or complex. Usually, a dumdaar tihai has a pause that is more than 1/2 maatra. A dumdaar tihai with complex pauses is sometimes referred to as bikat dum.

Ati-bedum tihai: The "dha" after the phrase is itself the pause, meaning that the pause is only 1/4 maatra. 

A very short tihai is also called a tiyya.

The tihai is a very integral part of tabla playing as every expansionary composition (peshkaar, kayda, rela, etc) end with a tihai to conclude the specific composition/topic. Tihais are even included in select pre-composed compositions such as tukdas, chakradaars, and some gats. Additionally, there is no specific rule that tihais may only be played at the end of a composition. Oftentimes, tabla players will compose tihais of various phrases while presenting peshkaar. Some paltas of peshkaar or kayda may have a small tihai within the palta itself.

Tihais are closely related with mathematical complexity as tabla players spontaneously create tihais based on mathematical formulas. The types of pauses employed by tabla players include 1/2 maatra pause, 3/4 maatra pause, 1 maatra pause, 1 and 1/2 maatra pause, 2 maatra pause, etc. 

How to compose a tihai

Know the number of maatras in your taal and start with the phrase that you want to include in the tihai. For example, we are making a tihai in jhaptaal with the phrase "dhatidhage dhatidhage tinakena". Since the phrase is 3 maatras, the same phrase played thrice equals 3 times 3 = 9 maatras, so we still have 1 maatra left to complete one awartan of jhaptaal. Since there are two pauses, 1 maatra divided by 2 means a 0.5 maatra pause.

dhatidhage dhatidhage tinakena dhaSdhati dhagedhati

dhagetina kenadhaS dhatidhage dhatidhage tinakena |


Supposed we want to make a 2 awartan tihai instead using the same phrase. With 20 maatras to spare, we can try a 6 maatra phrase, which will leave a 1 maatra pause. Simple play dhatidhage dhatidhage tinakena twice for the phrase.

If we wanted to make a tihai with the same phrase in pancham sawari (15 maatras), and if we decided that we wanted a 1.5 maatra pause, we will have 12 maatras left to work with because the pause occurs twice (15 - 1.5(2) = 12). 12 maatras total, divided by 3, gives us a 4 maatra phrase. We can make this 4 maatra phrase as "dhatidhage dhatidhage tinakena dhaSdhaS." It turns out that there is a small tihai included within the phrase as well, but the "dhaSdhaS" at the end is still part of the phrase. As it turns out, any taal of which the maatra count is a number divisible by 3 (such as pancham sawari - 15), we can have a 1.5 maatra pause and still manage to complete it sum-to-sum in one awartan.

dhatidhage dhatidhage tinakena dhaSdhaS dhaSSS

SSdhati dhagedhati dhagetina kenadhaS dhaSdhaS

SSSS dhatidhage dhatidhage tinakena dhaSdhaS |


While there are many more formulas and tricks to creating longer tihais, all tihais rely upon 3 equal phrases and 2 equal pauses.

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